Unemployment and Insurgency

Does unemployment drive insurgency? That’s a big question that hasn’t been studied much. Despite the lack of data, unfounded assumptions abound. These assumptions are the basis of grand strategic theories to multi-billion $$ counter-insurgency programs (such is the intellectual poverty of US military thinking). One interesting statistical study, Do Working Men Rebel by Eli Berman, Joseph Felter, and Jacob Shapiro (NBER), attempts to answer this question (November 2009).

They conclude that unemployment is actually negatively correlated to insurgency. They posit that the most likely explanation for this is that the government’s counter-insurgency efforts are cheaper/easier to accomplish, since they can buy intel on insurgent locations more easily. The other (less likely) potential conclusion is that high unemployment is an artifact of successful counter-insurgency efforts that restrict movement and increase isolation. In either case, the idea that opportunity costs etc. (the standard theories regarding unemployment and insurgency) drives insurgency doesn’t appear to be valid. Another ancillary conclusion of the paper is that high unemployment typically forces a shift in tactics towards stealth area of effect attacks (IEDs, and other methods that connote relative weakness rather than strength) that produce high levels of collateral damage.

Global Guerillas: Unemployment and Insurgency

Who’s Afraid of A Terrorist Haven?

The debate has largely overlooked a more basic question: How important to terrorist groups is any physical haven? More to the point: How much does a haven affect the danger of terrorist attacks against U.S. interests, especially the U.S. homeland? The answer to the second question is: not nearly as much as unstated assumptions underlying the current debate seem to suppose. When a group has a haven, it will use it for such purposes as basic training of recruits. But the operations most important to future terrorist attacks do not need such a home, and few recruits are required for even very deadly terrorism. Consider: The preparations most important to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks took place not in training camps in Afghanistan but, rather, in apartments in Germany, hotel rooms in Spain and flight schools in the United States.

In the past couple of decades, international terrorist groups have thrived by exploiting globalization and information technology, which has lessened their dependence on physical havens.

Washington Post: Who’s Afraid of A Terrorist Haven?

Refuse to be Terrorized

Our job is to remain steadfast in the face of terror, to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to not panic every time two Muslims stand together checking their watches. There are approximately 1 billion Muslims in the world, a large percentage of them not Arab, and about 320 million Arabs in the Middle East, the overwhelming majority of them not terrorists. Our job is to think critically and rationally, and to ignore the cacophony of other interests trying to use terrorism to advance political careers or increase a television show’s viewership.

The surest defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to recognize that terrorism is just one of the risks we face, and not a particularly common one at that. And our job is to fight those politicians who use fear as an excuse to take away our liberties and promote security theater that wastes money and doesn’t make us any safer.

Bruce Schneier: Refuse to be Terrorized

I have cynically accepted that the terrorists have already won – our nation is bankrupt, our economy in shambles, our infrastructure is crumbling, and our people live in constant fear. (And to top it off, Osama bin Laden was never brought to justice.) But maybe it’s not to late to refuse to be terrorized.

Future of Cyber Security: What Are the Rules of Engagement?

The fireworks weren’t only in the sky this past Fourth of July but were seemingly in the Intertubes, too, when U.S. and South Korean government websites were struck by a series of cyber sorties that knocked a few sites off line and left some people seeing red — as in the crimson Communist hue.

Anonymous South Korean intelligence agents blamed North Korea for the attacks — despite presenting no evidence to back the claim. U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan) even called on the administration to retaliate with a “show of force” against the Communist regime.

The congressman’s extreme reaction to a minor web attack is a stark reminder that we’ve entered the age of the cyber wars. It’s also a reminder that there are numerous questions — ethical, legal and even bureaucratic — that need to be sorted out about the rules of engagement before the U.S. launches any cyber volleys in retaliation for an attack or otherwise. The most basic being, what constitutes an attack, how do we identify its source and what’s an acceptable response?

Wired: Future of Cyber Security: What Are the Rules of Engagement?

Democracy Now guests on right wing populism and Tiller

Good conversation on today’s Democracy Now:

FREDERICK CLARKSON: Well, yeah. There’s been a big controversy about whether any of the anti-abortion groups should be called domestic terror organizations. There is one called the Army of God that’s an above-ground organization of largely veterans of anti-abortion violence or proponents of anti-abortion violence. And the Justice Department has decided that it’s not a terrorist organization, even though it publicly espouses crimes that could be called terrorism by any reasonable definition and has many convicted felons. […]

CHIP BERLET: Well, I think in the current context of the PATRIOT Act and other repressive legislation, we have to be very careful about the use of the term “terrorism.” Arguably, if you look at the Federal Criminal Code, many active anti-abortion violence would not be classified as terrorism in some interpretations. I don’t think the issue here is urging the government to expand its repressive powers. I think that’s a mistake. I think what we have here are groups of criminals and criminal individuals who need to be pursued and prosecuted, as appropriate.

And I think it’s important to understand that, for many years, clinic violence was not treated with the same aggressive attention by the federal government and state governments as other forms of vandalism and violence. And I think that that’s because the anti-abortion movement has a very large political and religious constituency that makes it very difficult for state and federal officials to try and actually enforce the existing laws that they should be doing. […]

Democracy Now: Tiller Killing Spurs Renewed Calls for US to Reverse Longstanding Passivity on Anti-Abortion Extremists

See also: My partner’s experience as a patient of Tiller’s.

Where will women go now?

Susan Hill, President of the National Women’s Health Foundation, who knew Dr. Tiller for over two decades and referred girls and women to his clinic, said in a phone interview, “We always sent the really tragic cases to Tiller.” Those included women diagnosed with cancer who needed abortions to qualify for chemotherapy, women who learned late in their pregnancies that their wanted babies had fatal illnesses, and rape victims so young they didn’t realize they were pregnant for months. “We sent him 11-year-olds, 12-year-olds who were way too far along for anybody [else] to see,” said Hill. “Eleven-year-olds don’t tell anybody. Sometimes they don’t even know they’ve had a period.”

Salon: Where will women go now?

Who is a terrorist?

You don’t need me to fill you in on the details of the murder of George Tiller in Kansas. […]

He’ll be charged with murder, but there’s no mention yet of any sort of terror charges. The FBI and others have been eager to use anti-terror provisions of the PATRIOT Act to go after ALF and ELF activists, some of whom have done nothing more than organize protests or post information to the web. Many of them have destroyed property, but no one has done any killing, or even wounded someone other than themselves.

Alternet quotes the National Abortion Federation for these statistics here:

“Not surprisingly, his killer is strongly suspected to be affiliated with the ‘pro-life’ movement. If that’s the case, it makes Tiller the 10th person in the United States to be murdered by anti-choice terrorists.”

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Since 1977, there have been at least 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery and three kidnappings committed against abortion providers in North America. Tiller himself survived an assassination attempt in 1993.

Compare the anti-abortion movement’s record on violence with the environmental and animal rights movements, and see who you think should more properly be charged with terrorism.

Dynomia: Domestic Terror

The Logic of Suicide Terrorism

Robert Pape: Over the past two years, I have collected the first complete database of every suicide-terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004. This research is conducted not only in English but also in native-language sources—Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and Tamil, and others—so that we can gather information not only from newspapers but also from products from the terrorist community. The terrorists are often quite proud of what they do in their local communities, and they produce albums and all kinds of other information that can be very helpful to understand suicide-terrorist attacks.

This wealth of information creates a new picture about what is motivating suicide terrorism. Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. The world leader in suicide terrorism is a group that you may not be familiar with: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

This is a Marxist group, a completely secular group that draws from the Hindu families of the Tamil regions of the country. They invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The Palestinians got the idea of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers.

TAC: So if Islamic fundamentalism is not necessarily a key variable behind these groups, what is?

RP: The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent of all the incidents—has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.

American Conservative: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism

(Thanks Prime Surrealestate)

Training the Police State’s Next Generation

boy scout cops

The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.

“This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts.”

The training, which leaders say is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting, can involve chasing down illegal border crossers as well as more dangerous situations that include facing down terrorists and taking out “active shooters,” like those who bring gunfire and death to college campuses. In a simulation here of a raid on a marijuana field, several Explorers were instructed on how to quiet an obstreperous lookout.

“Put him on his face and put a knee in his back,” a Border Patrol agent explained. “I guarantee that he’ll shut up.”

New York Times: Scouts Train to Fight Terrorists, and More

Six questions for Matthew Alexander, author of How to Break a Terrorist

You are correct that relationship- (or confidence-) building approaches are not new and have been known to law enforcement for decades. Even World War II interrogators used relationship-building approaches to great success, but we can build on that. Interrogation is an art and a science and, like every discipline, can be improved upon. My group began to integrate relationship-building with other criminal investigative techniques, always tailoring it to the culture at hand. This is what made our techniques new. I watched day in and day out as my group of interrogators used American ingenuity in adapting these approaches for each individual detainee and they were highly effective. Interrogation is about being smarter, not harsher.

Why these techniques have not yet been integrated into intelligence interrogation is a mystery to me. I made a list of criminal investigation techniques that would be effective in interrogations and included it in my “after-action” report. The next administration needs to institutionalize this approach by contracting a cadre of experienced law enforcement officers to help train our intelligence interrogators. This same relationship already exists between civilian and military criminal investigators.

Full Story: Harpers

See also: Matthew Alexander’s WaPo editorial

(via Schneier)

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